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Vote on MP's amendments to bill to occur Feb. 26

The second hour of debate on Rathgeber's attempt to alter his changed bill happened Thursday

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 06:00 am

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St. Albert’s maverick MP has some work to do before Feb. 26 if he wants to see his amendments to his controversial bill passed.

Edmonton-St. Albert’s MP Brent Rathgeber left the Conservative government caucus in June over the amendments they made to his transparency bill, Bill C-461, at the committee stage last spring.

In November, Rathgeber tabled a series of amendments to the bill which would have deleted the sections dealing with access to CBC documents and lowered the salary disclosure level for public servants, which had been raised upward during the committee revisions.

The second hour of debate on those amendments took place Thursday. Voting on the series of eight amendments will take place Feb. 26.

Alain Giguére, a Quebec NDP MP, said the NDP would be unable to support the bill if the amendments regarding the CBC don’t pass.

Scott Simms, a Liberal MP from Newfoundland, called the government to task about claiming to be accountable but not allowing the amendments, which he said would help with transparency, go through.

Costas Menegakis, parliamentary secretary for citizenship and immigration, made it clear the government doesn’t support Rathgeber’s amendments.

“The government will oppose all eight motions,” Menegakis said in the House of Commons. “These motions fundamentally alter the state of Bill C-461.”

On Thursday evening, Rathgeber said with cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries voting against his amendments, that would be at least 60 votes.

“That doesn’t surprise me. It was the government that gutted this bill at committee,” he said.

He’s confident that on a completely free vote his amendments would pass, but he’s concerned the Tories will pressure its backbenchers to vote against them. He has some hope that his amendments lowering the bar for salary disclosure might make it. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen to my amendments trying to undo the damage to CBC,” Rathgeber said.

With the NDP seemingly against the bill if the CBC amendments don’t pass and Tory backbenchers possibly facing pressure to vote against them even if the vote does not end up being whipped, Rathgeber said he has some lobbying to do before the vote Feb. 26.

“So I still got some pretty big cliffs to jump but hey, at least I’m in the game,” he said.

Budget reaction

“I’m not stomping up and down mad about the budget because it does show a commitment towards balancing the budget next year. I would have preferred it be this year,” he said.

The timing of the budget – presented during the Olympic Games – gave a warning “it was going to be underwhelming.”

“Politically I think the common wisdom is you balance the budget and bring in your nice, goody tax breaks in the election year,” Rathgeber said. “It’s good politics but it’s terrible policy.”

For his constituents, Rathgeber noted details of the Building Canada infrastructure fund that might benefit St. Albert and Edmonton are starting to roll out.

He’d like to see the budget balanced so tax breaks like fitness credits for adults and income splitting can be brought in.

There’s been some curiosity over Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s apparent change of heart on income splitting, as the minister now seems against it, and Rathgeber is among those wondering why.

“I campaigned on it and I don’t believe that income splitting is a panacea but I believe it will help a lot of people and save a lot of taxes,” he said.


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